Ben Freed, New York banjoist ( 1956 - 2015 ) was a world-class banjo player whose records of all original music include Speed of Sound (2000), Suite for Bluegrass Banjo (2003), and Banjopolis (2007). His best-known musical achievement was the solo banjo heard in the Coen Brothers film "Raising Arizona." Throughout his life he found tremendous joy in performing, giving lessons, and mentoring banjoists.
By day, Ben was a doctor of optometry, administering care to patients with unparalleled empathy and expertise. He headed the Homebound program at the SUNY College of Optometry, where he schlepped around New York City visiting patients. He was assistant clinical professor of optometry and ophthalmology at New York Medical College and SUNY College of Optometry. He served as director of the Low Vision service at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and had affiliations with Long Island Medical Center Department of Ophthalmology, Lighthouse International, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, Queens Hospital Center, and St. Lukes-Roosevelt Dept. of Ophthalmology. He trained a new generation of doctors to be devoted to their patients.
In addition to his mastery of the banjo, dobro, and optometry, he was an eager small-boat sailor, enthusiastic but rarely successful fisherman, great chooser of rescue dogs, fern aficionado, puppet designer, recumbent bicyclist, loving husband, and proud father.
Ben Freed was a friend to all, an inspirational cheerleader for musicians everywhere, especially bluegrass musicians, and in particular banjo players. Ben was a loyal and generous friend.